Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health News Florida
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Miami Beach Extends Spring Break Curfew In Wake Of Unruly Crowds, Arrests

Miami Beach.jpeg
Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP
/
A man stands on a car as crowds defiantly gather in the street while a speaker blasts music an hour past curfew in Miami Beach on Sunday, March 21, 2021. An 8 p.m. curfew has been extended in Miami Beach after law enforcement worked to contain unruly crowds of spring break tourists.

The police chief described a week full of melees that had people fleeing for their lives and became out of control by Friday night, when the city finally moved to shut things down.

A party-ending curfew remains in effect in Miami Beach, imposed after fights, gunfire, property destruction and dangerous stampedes broke out among huge crowds of people.

The police chief described a week full of melees that had people fleeing for their lives before the city finally moved to shut things down.

SWAT teams and law enforcement officers from at least four other agencies sought to contain the raucous crowds, but confrontations continued for days before Miami Beach officials enacted the curfew Saturday, which forces Ocean Drive restaurants to stop outdoor seating entirely.

City Manager Raul Aguila said many people from other states were coming in “to engage in an ‘anything goes’ attitude.” He said most weren’t patronizing the businesses but instead merely congregating by the thousands in the street.

Police say they arrested more than 50 people in the South Beach entertainment district from Friday to Sunday night and confiscated more than eight firearms. Since spring break season began, there have been more than 1,000 arrests and 80 guns seized, officials said..

Police Chief Richard Clements said the situation was out of control by Friday night, when one restaurant was “turned upside down” in a melee, its “chairs were used as weapons,”

"Too many people are coming here right now," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said Saturday as issued the emergency order. "And too many people are coming here with bad intentions."

City officials on Sunday afternoon extended the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew until at least April 12, effectively shutting down a spring break hot spot in one of the few states fully open during the pandemic.

Gelber said he was imposing the curfew and entry restrictions into Miami Beach preemptively before things get worse. Videos of the area show dense crowds of revelers, many of them maskless, drinking, dancing and ambling along Ocean Drive on Saturday night before police moved in to disperse them.

"At night there is no question that it becomes a place that feels a little out of control or a lot out of control," the mayor said. "At times you see things that shouldn't happen and no community should have to endure."

The curfew is forcing restaurants to stop outdoor seating entirely during the emergency period. Local businesses are being urged to voluntarily shut down.

Gelber said he understands businesses need to make money, but "we're going to obviously have to always put public safety above all else."

Gelber is also waving off criticism that the crowd was targeted because it has been mostly Black.

“We’re not targeting a group of people, we’re targeting conduct,” Gelber said.

The police chief told the Miami Herald that Saturday night’s department actions would be reviewed internally. He said his officers fired the tear gas after the crowd began to surge toward them.

“I think officers felt threatened at the time,” said Clements. “There has to be an element there of either the crowd fighting or coming at officers.”

A 10 p.m. shutdown of the eastbound lanes of the MacArthur, Julia Tuttle and Venetian causeways into Miami Beach will remain in effect Thursday through Sunday - effectively until the end of spring break.

Residents, hotel guests and local business employees are exempt from causeway closures on the MacArthur and Tuttle. The Venetian is resident-only during the causeway shutdown hours, which were initially set at 9 p.m.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7